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Crane damage provokes dispute

Melbourne, Florida, is the site of many construction projects and, at times, the site of some pretty extreme weather, such as the torrential rains and high winds brought by Hurricane Irma. When all of those things coincide, there can be problems at construction sites, and corresponding construction litigation.

That happened last September, when 99 mph winds slammed into three cranes at a construction site, snapping the arms of the cranes and leaving those arms dangling from the cranes' towers, which remained upright despite the extreme gusts of wind. The cranes belonged to Maxim Crane Works, a company based in Pennsylvania, which had rented to cranes to a Miami subcontractor for work on a 31-story apartment building that was under construction. That Miami subcontractor has now filed a lawsuit.

The lawsuit seems $45,000 in damages and makes the claim that the cranes, as provided by Maxim Crane Works, were not in good operating condition. The cranes were supposed to be able to withstand winds of up to 145 mph by spinning much like a weather vane does. The lawsuit also claims that Maxim Crane Works failed to adhere to the terms of their agreement with the subcontractor. It alleges that Maxim refused to either repair or replace the crane in a reasonable period of time.

Maxim claims, referring to a warranty, that it was the subcontractor's responsibility to pay for repairs necessitated by damage caused by weather like the high winds of Hurricane Irma. The subcontractor counters that claim by stating that manufacturing defects, which they say existed in the cranes, exempted them from having to pay for repairs.

This case shows a clear need to have unambiguous understandings about the terms of contracts prior to the commencement of projects to which they apply. Those understandings can help to preclude expensive disputes later on.

Source: Miami Herald, "After Irma toppled construction cranes, company sued over ‘defective’ equipment," Martin Vassolo, Feb. 22, 2018

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